General Archives - Page 2 of 4 - Stephan Spencer

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back (or Is It the Other Way Around?)

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Last night I went to a free screening at Sundance Cinemas for “Big Ideas for a Small Planet,” a new series on the Sundance Channel (and also available via iTunes). They treated us all to free popcorn and drinks, and they brought in some folks for a Q&A afterwards who were involved in sustainable interior decorating and river clean-up (the major topics covered in the two episodes they screened). It was really nice.

Just when I start feeling good, thinking the human race could be ready to turn the corner, I see these two items making the rounds in the twitterverse:

Lower Back Tattoos Now Available at Toys R Us

Part of the Problem

In some ways, we’re heading backwards not forwards. Ugh. We’ve got a loooong ways to go.

Hacker wants to teach me a lesson??

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I’ve been battling a hacker on this blog for the past two weeks. Perhaps you noticed the pharma spam redirects that just wouldn’t go away, despite reinstalling WordPress, moving servers, switching to a default theme, removing all plugins, locking down the admin with HTTP authentication, changing ownership and permissions on all files, etc. etc. Just to clarify it’s not just me doing the battling, I have had TONS of help from a couple of Netconcepts’ finest sysadmins (a big shout-out to Dave and Drew for the late nights!). It occurred tonight to Dave that this attack might be personal, because the hacker was vehemently expending so much effort to break back in and cause havoc each time that a hole was closed. But what did I do to deserve such violence? And to also target the blogs of my three children and of my Netconcepts colleague Chris Smith is really sick.

A helpful visitor emailed me a couple hours ago a screenshot of a popup window with a ransom note of sorts. Apparently the hacker heard me present at PubCon on December 5th and didn’t like me and/or what I had to say. The message was clear: either the hacker says his piece on this blog or the attacks will continue full-force. Here’s the screenshot:

That’s pathetic — resorting to a criminal act against me instead of simply engaging me in a dialogue through commenting or emailing me. I’m happy to take constructive criticism. But Mr. Lawless Hacker: don’t threaten me, don’t try to intimidate me, don’t steal from me, don’t vandalize my sites, and don’t harm my family or my colleagues in the process. Okay, so you want to take me to task for something, so be it. Do it in the comments.

Apologies and Thanks

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Hi everyone,

I just wanted to thank everyone for staying tuned to my blog. Lately, I’ve been very focused on blogging and writing articles. I’d like to make up for lost time by writing a series of posts that will cover many of the topics I’ve been addressing on places like CNet: Searchlight, Business Blog Consulting, Practical eCommerce, Marketing Profs, and Search Engine Land.

Thanks again for staying with me, I appreciate your support. :)

What are Your “Must Attend” Conferences?

By | General, Podcasting | 2 Comments

Now that I’m back full-time in the US, it’s not such a chore to get to conferences. I can even attend conferences that I’m not speaking at, which is something I seldom (if ever) did in the 8 years I lived in New Zealand. Yet it can be an excellent opportunity to connect with really interesting people and to expand my thinking. Last month, I attended BlogHer, to listen to my daughter Chloe, and I also made the trip to San Francisco for WordCamp. This month, I almost went to Gnomedex, but I hadn’t acted soon enough and it had sold out by the time I went to register.

Here is a list of conferences that I haven’t been invited to speak at and would love to attend:

These conferences are exclusive and expensive — and worth even penny. For those who can’t swing the invite or the budget, there are free podcasts of past talks. Pop!Tech has their Pop!Casts, TED has their TED Talks, SXSW has their SXSW Podcasts, and IT Conversations has covered a number of conferences including Web 2.0 2005/2004, Accelerating Change 2005/2004, and ETech.

How does your conference schedule look? What are some of your important conferences that you feel you have to attend?

Web 2.0 productivity

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One of the most inspiring sessions at Web 2.0 Expo last week was “Mastering the Low-Information Diet” by entrepreneur Tim Ferriss. Tim is author of the book The 4-Hour Work Week. (Yes, it’s true, he spends only 4 hours per week running his 2 businesses.) The session was part of the “Ignite” evening of lightning-round 5-minute sessions. Tim’s presentation was voted by the audience (using cell phone voting via SMS) as one of the best sessions of the night and was thus included in the keynote on Day 3 of the conference. So I got to enjoy Tim’s 5-minute “drinking from a firehose” talk — twice! It’s amazing what a speaking pro can do with a mere 5 minutes! Here are my notes from the session:

Tip #1: “Selective ignorance”
We’re in a world of infinite interruption and infinite minutia. Practice “selective ignorance” — you don’t need to know and follow everything.

Tip #2: “Batching”
Batching is performing similar tasks at set times. You only do these tasks at specific times and in the meantime you let them accumulate.
For example, check your email only twice a day. Use an auto-responder to let urgent issues get picked up sooner. Example of auto-response message: “Dear esteemed colleagues, In order to get more done, I’m checking email only twice per day — once in the late morning and once in the late afternoon. If you require a response sooner than that, please call my cell phone at 555-555-5555.”

Tip #3: Pareto Principle
Focus on the “critical few,” not the “trivial many.”
You may ask “What if i miss something important?” Tim responds that he’s never missed anything that cost him more than $500.00. Whereas, by practicing this, he has gained millions of dollars in additional booked revenue.
“Pareto Principle” is the 80/20 rule. For example, 20% of the people in your business life will consume 80% of your time. Not all customers are created equal. 5% of your customers may contribute 95% of your profit. Figure out which customers are not profitable and “fire” them. Tim fired the worst offenders and put remaining lower-profitability customers “on auto-pilot” — never proactively contacting them or thinking about them.

Tip #4: Outsource your life
Tim has between 20 and 40 MBAs around the world that he outsources various aspects of his business and personal life to, such as: database creation / prospect list creation, etc… Even online dating!
Find people to outsource your life to on GetFriday.com (7 day trial), Elance.com, etc.
If you can pay someone half or less of what you earn per hour and they can do a reasonable job of it, outsource it!

Tip #5: Schedule life in advance
It’s not about “work-life balance,” it’s about “work-life SEPARATION”.
If you have a void, you’ll fill it with work. So fill your schedule with personal activities too, not just business activities.

Read Tim’s blog for more of his wisdom.

Watch his talk at Ignite

Now you can draw on the wall and not get in trouble

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I am a sucker for cool gadgets like the multitouch display that I blogged about last month.

The latest cool gadget that I just discovered is a laser light crayon from Philips. Mostly it’s a toy for kids. But I think it also has applications in the workplace, particularly for those executives who can’t express themselves unless they are in front of a whiteboard with marker in hand. This is just the sort of creativity tool that I could imagine Googlers at the ‘plex really getting into.

Check out this video and see how it works:

The key to the whole thing is the bucket. It is a laser projector that projects light onto the wall. Thus, unlike real crayons, the scribbling is totally nondestructive. Along with the magical bucket comes a multi-coloured brush, an eraser, and a magic wand to bring the drawings to life. The magic wand was the most surprising bit — with a flick of the wrist you can animate your drawing.

This is unreal. I want one!

Getting organized – a progress report

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On January 1st on the MarketingProfs’ Daily Fix where I am a contributing blogger, I proclaimed my New Year’s Resolution to the world — which was to implement an amazing system for unprecedented gains in productivity and organization that I had discovered. That system — called GTD by its followers — is based on the best-selling book Getting Things Done by David Allen. With GTD, you stop using your brain as a holding tank for all the important things that you need to do and remember, so that you can be in the state of flow — what Allen calls “Mind like water.”

Sound pretty good eh? Well it is. But it’s no quick fix; it can take years to really master GTD. There are new processes to learn and old habits to break. It’s easy to “fall off the wagon,” so to speak, but it’s equally as easy to get back on it. To learn more about what GTD can offer, have a read of my MarketingProfs article from a couple weeks ago: Clearing the Clutter – How Busy Marketers Can Get Things Done.

My biggest accomplishment was getting everything and into one place — into a program called Journler (for the Mac). Trying to keep track of, and make sense of, the cacophony — the ideas and to do’s floating around in my head, the half-written email drafts, the Word documents, scribbled notes on Post-Its and backs of envelopes — that was fighting for my attention made me feel ‘out of control’ and caused me a lot of stress. I’m glad to be out of that. Now that I have a central repository to turn to, I’m never going back to my old way of recording things!

Allen’s “two minute rule” has been a big time-saver and sanity saver. The rule says: “If it can be done in 2 minutes or less, then just do it right then and there rather than defering it to later.” I used to touch the same email over and over again, even though it would have been a less than two-minute task to deal with it. What a time killer that was! I don’t do that quite so much any more.

One thing I haven’t totally licked yet is my overflowing email inbox. That’s next on my list. Allen advises maintaining an “Inbox Zero” state. I’m reading Merlin Mann’s excellent article series on the topic, which is giving me some great tips and tools. I can’t wait to learn how to do “email triage.” Mann claims anyone can clear their inbox in less than 20 minutes using the approach he outlines.

I’m still struggling with (learning about) managing projects with GTD. Even “Next Actions” are giving me some trouble. Next Actions are easy to manage when you have a manageable number. However I currently have 134 Next Actions. Probably that’s too many and I should move some into “Someday/Maybe”. With so many, even filtering those by context (e.g. “Errands”, “Calls”, “Writing”) still leaves me with an overwhelming list.

With that said, being able to view these to do’s by context has made me more efficient, because it empowers me to do stuff in batches, such as phone calls when I’m in a phone mood or when I have dead time while in the car or sitting in a waiting room.

Also, having a “Waiting For” list has freed my mind a bit because I don’t have to retain the fact that certain people owe me responses or deliverables. I simply review my Waiting For list, which triggers me to send out reminder emails to people who still owe me stuff.

So, there you have it. Far from perfect, and only scratching the surface of GTD, but it’s a start and I’m certainly better off than I was last year because of it. Overall I’m pretty pleased with my progress.

Any of you, dear readers, using GTD? Or thinking about it?

Spiders like Googlebot choke on Session IDs

By | General | One Comment

Many ecommerce sites have session IDs or user IDs in the URL of their pages. This tends to cause either the pages to not get indexed by search engines like Google, or to cause the pages to get included many times over and over, clogging up the index with duplicates (this phenonemon is called a “spider trap”). Furthermore, having all these duplicates in the index causes the site’s importance score, known as PageRank, to be spread out across all these duplicates (this phenonemon is called “PageRank dilution”).

Ironically, Googlebot regularly gets caught in a spider trap while spidering one of its own sites – the Google Store (where they sell branded caps, shirts, umbrellas, etc.). The URLs of the store are not very search engine friendly: they and are overly complex, and include session IDs. This has resulted in 3,440 duplicate copies of the Accessories page and 3,420 copies of the Office page, for example.

If you have a dynamic, database-driven website and you want to avoid your own site becoming a spider trap, you’ll need to keep your URLs simple. Try to avoid having any ?, &, or = characters in the URLs. And try to keep the number of “parameters” to a minimum. With URLs and search engine friendliness, less is more.